States can’t unilaterally cancel exams, says UGC

A view of the University Grants Commission (UGC), in New Delhi.   | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

The University Grants Commission (UGC) argued in the Supreme Court on Tuesday that though its July 6 directive to conduct final-year exams by the end of September is not a “diktat,” States cannot unilaterally cancel the exams citing the pandemic.

“If the State governments had an issue, they cannot change the exam schedule on their own. They should meet with the Centre and consult with the UGC about their apprehensions,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for UGC, submitted before a three-judge Bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan.

Mr. Mehta said the guidelines for conducting the exams involved multiple options for students. “They can take the exams online, offline or hybrid [partly online and partly in the physical format],” he said.

“If the student is unable to appear in the exams for any reason, another opportunity can be given to him even after the September deadline is over,” the law officer submitted.

Mr. Mehta said the July 6 directive was issued for the “benefit of students” as the universities had to start admissions to postgraduate courses, and the State authorities could not override the UGC’s guidelines. “There is a statutory supremacy… This is the UGC’s domain,” he said.

Verdict reserved

The Bench is hearing the question whether States like Maharashtra and Delhi could have cancelled the UGC final exams unilaterally while overruling the UGC directive. The court reserved the case for judgment.

The question came up while the court was hearing a batch of petitions filed by over 30 students, represented by advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava, questioning the validity of the UGC’s directive.

The counsel appearing for one of the States argued that not holding final year exam did not lead to dilution of standards and even premier institutions like the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) had said that they would give the degree without holding exams.

UGC questioned the logic of cancelling the final terms exams for fear of COVID-19, but at the same time opening up varsities and educational institutions for the next academic session.

The UGC said if institutions could be opened up for the next academic session, there was nothing to prevent the conduct of final exams. Cancellations of exams would cause “irreparable damage” to the students, UGC said.

“If universities cannot function to hold final examinations, circumstances should then prevent even the commencement of the next academic session,” the UGC said.

A separate affidavit by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs said the decision to open up educational institutions for final exams and evaluation work was made in consultation with the Human Resource Development Ministry after “taking into consideration the academic interest of a large number of students.” The UGC reiterated that its ‘UGC Guidelines on Examinations and Academic Calendar for Universities in view of COVID-19 Pandemic’ was revised on July 6 in consultation with the Prof. K.C. Kuhad expert committee.

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Printable version | Mar 3, 2021 2:28:59 PM |

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